U.S. Northwest Storm Cuts Power; at Least Three Dead
More than a million homes and businesses lost electricity in Washington and Oregon and at least three people died after an overnight storm packing hurricane-force winds downed power lines, snarled traffic and disrupted public services.
At least three people died in storm-related incidents in Washington state, including a 28-year-old man who was killed by a falling tree and two traffic deaths involving downed trees, officials said. A 41-year-old woman also died in her basement, according to the Associated Press.
``We still have hundreds of thousands of people without power and dozens of roads closed because of downed power lines and trees,'' King County spokesman Doug Williams said in an interview at about 2:30 p.m. local time from Seattle.
Winds on Oregon's Mount Hood, where rescuers were forced to halt a search for three stranded climbers, reached 100 miles (161 kilometers) an hour, the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane, according to the National Weather Service.
The power failure delayed flights at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after hindering ticketing, baggage processing and other services. Amtrak canceled rail service between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle because of downed trees and mudslides blocking the tracks. Seattle's King County restricted public transport to easily accessible areas.
Power at the airport went out at about 1:30 a.m. local time and stayed down for about eight hours in parts of the facility, affecting carriers including AMR Corp. (AAMRQ)'s American Airlines and Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL), airport spokeswoman Rachel Garson said.
More than 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain fell in some areas, including Skokomish, Washington, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Seattle. Some mountain peaks got about 15 inches of snow, the weather service said.
Rivers swelled, including the Willamette in Oregon and the Skokomish in Washington, which rose almost a foot above its 16-foot flood stage. Several roads were closed due to flooding.
King County Executive Ron Sims issued an emergency proclamation today and closed the county district court and nine public-health facilities.
At Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)'s main campus in the Seattle suburb of Redmond, the power was out as of midday, spokesman Lou Gellos said. Auxiliary power was keeping the lights on in some offices, he said.
Working From Home
Many of the company's 35,000 employees who work in Redmond were logged on to corporate computer networks from home and executives were still able to meet with customers at the campus, he said.
``To say it's business as usual is not totally fair because a lot of people are affected either at their home or office,'' he said. ``Destruction is pretty widespread'' in the Seattle area.
The winds uprooted dozens of trees on Microsoft's property and some landed on top of buildings, he said.
The storm cut power to more than 700,000 homes and businesses served by Puget Energy Inc.'s Puget Sound Energy, or more than two-thirds of its customers, the utility said.
As many as 250,000 customers of Portland, Oregon-based Portland General Electric Co. (POR) lost power in the worst failure since 1995, the utility said on its Web site. About 144,000 customers remained without service as of 2:35 p.m. local time today, the utility said.
Intel Corp. (INTC), the world's largest semiconductor maker, suffered some power outages at factories in the Portland suburb of Hillsboro, spokesman Chuck Mulloy said. No one was injured and there was no significant interruption, Mulloy said.
Pacific Power, a unit of Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., said about 64,000 customers in Oregon and Washington were without power as of 4 p.m. The number of outages peaked at 111,000 just before midnight, spokeswoman Jan Mitchell said.
``We're encouraging our customers to be ready for extended periods of outages,'' Mitchell said, adding that the utility was unable to forecast when the power would be restored.
At Seattle City Light, a government-owned utility, the number of power failures peaked at 175,000, or about 50 percent of customers.
The weather also idled five high-voltage electric lines in Oregon and two in Washington, said Mike Hansen, a spokesman with the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency that owns about 75 percent of the region's high-voltage transmission lines. It may take up to three days to repair some of the lines.
To the north, winds gusting to 98 miles an hour struck Vancouver Island and southwestern British Columbia, leaving more than 240,000 homes without electricity.
``We're working with a lot of power lines down and poles on the ground,'' Elisha Moreno, a spokeswoman for British Columbia Hydro, the province's electricity provider, told the Canadian broadcasting Corp. ``We're having trouble getting into some areas because of trees being across the road.''
Police closed the Lions Gate Bridge linking the city of Vancouver with North Shore communities of West and North Vancouver after winds downed trees along the Stanley Park Causeway, blocking access to the bridge.
Power failures in Surrey, the province's second-most-populous city, disrupted SkyTrain rail service, leaving some commuters stranded while transit officials organized emergency bus service.
The storm was the third to strike the Vancouver area this week, forcing more than 100 schools in the region to close for the day.